Machiavelli, well known political philosopher, and author of The Prince, was actually more well known in his days for his plays. Written in 1518, Mandragola is the quintessential classical comedy. The plot centers around a wealthy merchant Nicias and his beautiful wife Lucretia. Callimaco, a young man hears of the beautiful wife and wishes to become her lover. He learns of the couples unfruitful attempts to produce a child and disguises himself as a doctor. He informs Nicias that he can produce a potion from the mandrake plant that if taken by Lucretia will enable her to conceive. However, the first man to have sexual intercourse will die from the effects of the potion so Nicias must not do this lest he die. Callimaco informs Nicias that he knows of a young man who will consent to have sex with her, and bear the pain of death. Nicias consents and persuades Lucretia. Thus Callimaco disguises himself, yet again, and is able to have his way with Lucretia. Machiavelli was able to produce a marvelous, witty play that conformed to appropriate subject matter that occurred in plays of the ancient Greeks. This is a masterful comic, but also political work that shows the literary genius of Machiavelli.

Machiavelli, Niccolo. Mandragola. In Machiavelli: The Chief Works and Others, ed. Allan Gilbert. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1965.

Muir, D. Erskine. Machiavelli and His Times. New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1936.